Swept to Sea: My Final Walk Through the Harriss Camp

Nauset beach is, or was, a 7 mile stretch of beach extending from Nauset Bay to Chatham Harbor off the coast of Cape Cod. In the early to mid- 1900s, my Great Grandfather purchased a hunting and fishing camp that sat along the beach facing Chatham Harbor and with it's back to the Atlantic Ocean. As children, this is where we spent the best part of our summers. My generation is the last to make memories here. 

Nauset Beach has experienced erosion due to rising sea levels for decades. Though, I'm sure my Father's generation saw greater changes, I began to notice the shifting landscape in the early 2000s. What once felt like a hike from the bay side to the "big beach" was suddenly within eyesight. The mountain of dunes and seagrass offering our little camp some shelter was quickly becoming a sandy flatland. We did not want to admit that our camp had numbered days.

In November 2007, Hurricane Noel traveled from the tropics and up the Atlantic  wreaking havoc on the Cape Cod coastline. The storm's mussel was strong enough to created a cut, or new connection, between the Atlantic Ocean and Chatham Harbor. Of the 26 camps along Nauset Beach, ours was one of the first two to be swept to sea. 

The following images are from our final walk through our camp shortly after the storm. 

You drive through Orleans, MA to get to Nauset Beach. To access the camps you have to have a permit. With deflated tires, we'd drive cautiously down the sand roads. Inevitably, our tires would get stuck in a soft patch and we'd spend more time digging our car out of a hole.

nauset beach and chatham harbornauset beach and chatham harborThe waves picked up our house and moved it yards from where it originally stood. The garage, to the left, though demolished, stayed in place.nauset beach and chatham harbornauset beach and chatham harbornauset beach and chatham harborThis view from the second floor window. Now, you'd be standing in water.nauset beach and chatham harborThe upstairs almost looks untouched.nauset beach and chatham harborA final peek into the cupola, boarded up for winter. nauset beach and chatham harborThe second floor had filled with sand and water. The chimney collapsed. nauset beach and chatham harbornauset beach and chatham harborThis is where the house detached from itself. There were still frozen Vienna Fingers in the freezer, a summertime staple.nauset beach and chatham harborThe boardwalk originally leading from the beach to the house was nowhere in sight.nauset beach and chatham harborThis buoy belonged to our old but solid Boston Whaler.nauset beach and chatham harborAs we were about to leave oceanographer and author, Bill Sargent, appeared to survey the damage and interviewed my Father. nauset beach and chatham harbornauset beach and chatham harborHere's a view across the newly formed cut to the houses that remained. Since 2007, the cut has extended and more winter storms have claimed all but one of the camps.nauset beach and chatham harbor

nauset beach and chatham harborA final sunset to bid us farewell. nauset beach and chatham harbor

1 comment

Great article, but sad…

Hugh May 01, 2020

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